Downtown Indy Exploration

G has been working eleven hours a day, six days a week since December, and in his “free” time has been putting some serious sweat equity into our home. Memorial’s long weekend was the perfect excuse to request him asking Saturday off work and stealing him away from the house. No work. No housework. Just the two of us. We packed one suitcase, shuffled Copper’s cage to the in-laws, and escaped to Indianapolis for a weekend of exploration.

I had initially planned to keep our destination a secret until we rolled into our AirBnb, but as G grew up near the city and I had never visited before, I ended up telling him and asking if he had any excursion requests that may require tickets. Memorial Day weekend was, after all, Indy 500 weekend and there were some awesome events happening throughout the city. So over the course of two weeks we eyed some opportunities, but ultimately decided to spend the weekend in organic exploration — and it was absolutely marvelous.

We left home after half-days of work on Friday. The city is only about three and a half hours from our little corner of Michigan, and we arrived at our AirBnb close to 6:00pm. As the weekend was one of the most popular in Indy, hotels were either completely booked or offering sky-high prices, but I had lucked out on finding an inexpensive apartment a stone’s throw away from the Children’s Museum. The owner, Boxx, is an artist who displays her talents throughout the apartment and we LOVED every corner of the experience. Isn’t she ridiculously talented? Her art was even more appreciated considering how easy she was to correspond with and the cleanliness of the space — we could not have been happier with our accommodations.

We made the most of our Friday night by driving through Downtown Indy, finding an ideal parking space on North Illinois, and walking along the canal to snag some dinner. Our walk was not incredibly long as we stumbled upon BurgerHaus. Named “Best Burger Restaurant in the State of Indiana” by TripAdvisor, BurgerHaus has made it their quest to take the great American hamburger and make it international… and G and I think they nailed it! Fricken YUM. G ordered their Mexican-inspired burger, The Cozumel, which sported a grilled pineapple slice, guacamole, and jalapenos. I chose The Vienna. Bacon, beer-braised onions, bacon jam, arugula, cheese, and mayo all on a gluten-free bun. My mouth is watering just thinking back on it. If you’re looking for an awesome burger in Indy (or throughout Indiana), I highly recommend finding the closest BurgerHaus. You will not be disappointed.

In typical fashion, we were in bed and asleep by 9’o’clock Friday night and rearing to go early the next morning. We started the morning with breakfast at Lincoln Square Pancake House. Both our meals were delicious and the staff were incredibly friendly — I guess that Hoosier Hospitality is a real thing! G ordered outside-the-box with the banana nut bread French toast and I eyed him angrily the entire time because, you know, gluten. Ugh.

We then returned downtown to pick up from where we left off the night before. My city experiences have predominately been in Chicago, so my expectations were for loud noises, crowds, and busyness. Indy was a welcome surprise though. The city has a laid-back attitude and the people you happen to bump into are kind and courteous. Being that the Indy 500 was happening on Sunday, there was a parade and festival happening in the center of Downtown, but G and I were able to bypass the chaos for the most part. We enjoyed a sleepy morning stroll along the canal, walked through the Capitol, showed our respects at Military Park, and took in the city one step at a time. I never felt rushed or inconvenienced. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The majority of the day was spent sightseeing and wandering around downtown simply to explore whatever we found. We each had a few things we aimed to find, but we did not rush the process. I had heard great things about the Indianapolis City Market, so we made our way to the original farmer’s market and grabbed some lunch. I also loved running across the numerous murals painted throughout the city.

One stop G looked forward to was the Rhythm! Discovery Center. Rhythm was an interactive museum of drums and percussion instruments, and G could have spent the entire day inside. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned it before, but G was once the drummer of a rock band called Vice. The band was known throughout their little area in Indiana and even opened for some music festivals. He has a drum set at home and nothing makes him happier than being able to create music — he says its a great stress-reliever. We were both able to play some diddies at Rhythm. It was a great way for G to share one of his passions with me!

After walking around Downtown, G and I beat the rainstorms back to the car and made our way to meet up with some of my husband’s cousins who were also in Indy celebrating a birthday. His cousin’s favorite brewery, Triton Brewing Company, was on the outskirts of the city and the group had plans for a tour of the facility, so we opted to meet them for a drink. As time seems to be flying, we realized we hadn’t seen one another since our wedding last June, and we had a great visit.

Then it was on to more food… Though we could have found something more “Indy-inspired” such as St. Elmo’s Steak House, G was dying to take me to P. F. Chang’s for dinner. We have been talking about visiting Indy since before we were married, and P. F. Chang’s has always been on the itinerary since I’ve never been to one of their restaurant’s before. And YUM! We split a dragon roll aside a bottle of Rose, and then opted for Beef with Broccoli as our entree. I thought our local Chinese restaurant (which I’ve grown up eating) did food right but Chan’s has nothing on Chang’s. Tender, sweet, and just the right amount of sauce. G was correct in his assessment that I’d be a happy camper following the meal.

The remainder of the evening was spent relaxing at the AirBnb with one another. The air conditioning was a welcome relief from the 90+ degree temperatures outside, and after walking the majority of the day watching a movie and dozing off was the best ending to a perfect day.

With plans to spend Memorial Day at one of our House friend’s homes and cookout with friends, Sunday was a lazy day of traveling back home. I let G sleep in as I watched an episode of my latest binge-worthy find: Outlander. Then we packed our few belongings, cleaned up after ourselves, and left Boxx’s abode to find some breakfast and head home to Copper and housework.

Using Yelp, we stumbled upon a quaint little restaurant called Love Handle in the art district of Indy. (Or at least what we decided to call the art district because of the various art studios, foreign terms in the business names, and numerous hipsters wandering around.) Love Handle didn’t have a lot of offerings for breakfast, but what they did list on the menu sounded amazing. G and I decided to split an order of blueberry waffles and biscuits and gravy. Neither were gluten-free but I decided to live it up before returning home. #YOLO Everything was made from scratch, and the gravy had a kick that has my husband asking me to attempt something similar at home now.

We enjoyed a cup or two of coffee and then departed, full on good food, fun memories, and the promise of more visits in the future.

So, all in all, our weekend in Indy was fantastic. I cannot wait to return to visit more of the city, especially some of the historical museums. For those who have traveled to Indy, do you have any recommendations on restaurants and/or experiences we should add to our itineraries? Please let me know.

Happy travels, friends,

 

Christmas In Chicago

For Christmas this year, my in-laws took G and I on a weekend trip to the Windy City. Only two hours away from our quiet little country town, Chicago is a quick drive to experience city-life every now and then. It was a quick weekend full of memories and festive attractions. A big thanks to “Ma and Pa G” for this great Christmas present! It allowed G and I to get out of the house, away from work, and spend precious moments with his parents. We are incredibly blessed.

If you are visiting Chicago for a weekend around Christmastime, there are a lot of places to visit and things to do in the city. Though we couldn’t squeeze every attraction into our schedule, here is what we were able to see and do:

My friend Saki works for Hilton and has included me in her family and friends list to be able to enjoy discounts through the company while I travel. Thanks to her generosity, our little troupe stayed two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn at McCormick Place on the 21st floor overlooking the city. Our room’s window faced North, so we were able to glimpse Lake Michigan, Soldier Field, and the Wintrust Arena.

We pulled into the hotel relatively late after enjoying dinner en route. Not wanting to go out into the city at a late hour, we instead visited the VU Rooftop Bar and Lounge which was located on the 22nd floor of our hotel. We ordered drinks over conversation to kick off the weekend. I chose a glass of 2015 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere from Colchagua Valley, Chile. This wine was one hell of a find! It was full bodied with green pepper, blackberry, and smoked oak aromas. It offered a dark fruit jam palate. Typical to Chilean Carmeneres, there was enough acidity to nicely balance out all the rich flavors with a long spicy finish. Yum!

The next morning we hailed an Uber and made our way to breakfast. I had been told to try the Nutella Cafe on Michigan Avenue by a friend. As we entered to the sweet smells of pastries and coffee, we knew we’d made a good choice. I opted for a Nutella crepe topped with strawberries and a Nutella latte. You know, being as basic as possible for a tourist in the city. *hey girl hey*

Following the delicious breakfast, the majority of our morning and early afternoon was spent shopping on the Magnificent Mile. For those unfamiliar with Chicago, the Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s premier commercial district. A bustling area, this district is home to upscale shops and luxe fashion outlets. And around Christmastime hosts window after window of winter wear and Christmas decorations. We ventured into a few notable retail stores such as Under Armour, Nike, The Disney Store, and Dylan’s Candy Bar. Along the way, we marveled at some of the architecture such as the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, the terracotta Wrigley Building skyscraper, and the 100-story John Hancock Center.

We ended our journey on Michigan Avenue at the Water Tower Place. Mainly seeking restrooms, we made our way through Macy’s and the crowds of shoppers to the third floor of the 74-story skyscraper which house a huge shopping mall. As we discussed our next plan of action, we moseyed around the mall and looked at some of the unique gift offerings. There was a succulent stand which I loved, and a chocolate seller with some spectacular wares! The Amazing Chocolate Workshop designs chocolate to look like a variety of different tools and gadgets. From scissors to pliers, and teacups to cameras, all of their offerings are made of chocolate. They truly are amazing! I simply had to buy something from their booth, so I bought one of the corkscrews for a gift exchange I had coming up.

Done with shopping, our group decided it was time to eat. Now, Chicago is famous for its food – not only as a gourmet dining epicenter, but as the home of several local specialties. Some of these culinary staples include Chicago deep-dish pizza, the Chicago-style hot dog, and the Italian Beef. As any good tourists would do, we stuck to a classic and went to Giordano’s for some hearty lunch.

Since we visited Chicago on a weekend close to Christmas, the shops and restaurants close to the Magnificent Mile were packed with people. Giordano’s was no different. We were told there would be a half hour wait for a table of four. As we waited, we were able to order our deep dish pizza (sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onion) so our wait wouldn’t be much longer to eat once we were seated. Deep dish pizzas typically take 45 minutes to an hour to cook completely. Once seated, we enjoyed an appetizer of Wisconsin cheese curds before our gooey pizza came out. It is no wonder Giordano’s is constantly making headlines, both in Chicago and nationally. The pizza’s crust was fluffy perfection, the fillings were plentiful, and the sauce was rich. We nodded our stuffed faces as to why Giordano’s has been acclaimed “Chicago’s Best Pizza” by NBC, CBS Chicago, New York Times, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Eater, Home & Garden Magazine, Concierge Preferred and more!

Upon our departure from the late lunch, we decided to get off the streets and out of the cold. We chose to go to an AMC theater around the corner from the restaurant. Luckily, a movie was beginning within fifteen minutes of our arrival: Ralph Wrecks the Internet. Though not a great recommendation of sight-seeing in Chicago, being able to relax in the hustle-and-bustle of the city was welcomed by us “countryfolk.” And the movie was funny and light-hearted — a great option for our little vacation.

We exited the movie to a dark sky and hundreds of Christmas lights. Calling an Uber, we set our location to our only scheduled event of the weekend: the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. I have been to the ZooLights plenty of times in the past, but love to go every year. This one-of-a-kind experience offers a free, family-oriented holiday celebration featuring luminous displays and lots of seasonal activities. There are ice carving shows, carousel and ferris wheel rides, and over 2.5 million Christmas lights set up throughout the zoo. You’ll find lighted animal exhibits in the midst of a beautiful light show set to beloved Christmas music. The ZooLights are a must-see in Chicago during the holiday season!

If you do visit the ZooLights, also know you do not have to take a lot of time out of schedule to do so. We walked through the entire space within a half hour’s time. Though we definitely could have spent more time meandering the zoo, the cold temperatures of a Windy City December left us wanting to be indoors. Thus we looked up a dinner option and walked the short distance out of the zoo to Clark Street to find Green Tea Sushi.

There is nothing I enjoy more for a meal than sushi. Unfortunately, Southwest Michigan does not offer a ton of fresh options. When G and I do decide to go on a sushi date, it’s always a fancier date night than typical as it means we’re having to go out of town or to a formal restaurant.

Therefore, we were looking forward to sushi in Chicago. Green Tea Sushi, by appearance, did not seem to be an ideal place to get a high-quality sushi like we wanted though. It is a small, skinny restaurant thrown into a corner of Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The restaurant only had six seats at its sushi bar and six tables for seating. When our group of four entered, we took up an entire fourth of the guests’ space. However, it was a fun experience and made for an intimate dinner. G and I ordered three rolls to split: a Philly roll, a spicy tuna roll, and the Dragon.

Wow.

Talk about an experience. The sushi was by far the best I’ve ever eaten. Fresh. Flavorful. Gorgeous to look at…

It goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover. This little gem will forever be a staple for our future Chicago travels. We chose two “safe options” with our typical Philly and spicy tuna rolls, but the Dragon was outside our comfort-zones. The roll featured shrimp tempura, crab, and cucumber wrapped with fresh water eel and avocado. It. Was. Delectable. I am still having dreams about this sushi roll and cannot wait to return and discover new rolls.

All of those attractions and food adventures took place on Saturday. On Sunday we returned home. But not without stopping by the Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall in Michigan City, Indiana on the way home. It was interesting to see some of the same products at the stores in Chicago (namely at Levi and Nike) at half the prices at the outlet mall. G and I were happy we opted not to purchase anything in the city, and instead bought a few Christmas gifts at the mall for a fraction of the cost.

All in all, we loved our short trip to the Windy City with my in-laws but are happy to be home in our little corner of the world. The city is fun to visit. But for this girl, I love my small-town life.

Until next time,

 

 

 

Do you know of any attractions and/or restaurants that are go-to’s in Chicago during the holiday season? I would love to hear from you and add to my list for future trips. Please leave a recommendation below in the comment section. 🙂

And I Thought Life Would Slow Down…

Somehow I thought Life would slow down once the wedding was over. What a naive little bride-to-be I was!

Hello, friends, and let me apologize for my absence this month so far. I know, I know, I promised many upcoming posts on the adventures of being a newlywed and delicious recipes and fun DIY home decorating ideas and, and, and…

I’m sorry.

This is my first post in August. I’m sorry. Life has been so hectic for G and me over the past month, and I am finally catching a little bit of breath tonight to at least sit down and let you all know why I have been MIA.

First off, G and I are in the process of buying a house! YES! I realize my only post of House Hunting was in mid-July, but this process has been ridiculously fast-moving. I’ll be back-dating a post or two to talk about a few other houses we viewed, but I also plan to discuss the whole home-buying process and the do’s and don’t’s associated with becoming first time home buyers. Trust me, we are learning a lot as we go through this purchase!

We were supposed to close this Friday, but some things fell through on the seller’s end and now we are in limbo. Waiting for a closing date is a lot like waiting for a roller coaster to get over the first hill — we’ve been left suspended in mid-air, filled with excitement, but fearful of what may be waiting around the turn. Please keep us in your thoughts as we continue to wait for the next step in becoming home buyers.

To make home buying even more chaotic, G is beginning a new job next week. I could not be prouder of him, but WOW! Could this blessing not have waited at least one more month for closing to be over? Talk about stress! But seriously, my husband is one of the most hardworking people I know, and I am so impressed at his resolve to leave a job he loves to pursue something that will be better for our family in the long run. Not only is he receiving a pay increase, but his new job is sending him to school (beginning in September already!), offering him full benefits, and promises to train him into a managerial role within five years. Knowing the person he is, I wasn’t surprised he chose this option as he is always talking about creating the best foundation for our family. But, again, I could not be a prouder wife.

On top of buying a house and beginning a new job, G is also in the final legs to receive his license. This past Friday we went car shopping and found the perfect work truck for him to call his own. Our quaint home is now filled with a very proud wife and a very happy husband. Life is good.

I also took a more prominent role in the planning committee for Pink Tie Ball this year by being nominated and accepting the role of Secretary and Marketing Manager for the committee. This means a bit more responsibility on my plate during week nights, but since G will be working longer hours now, I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead of me. Planning has already begun for this February 2019 event, and my committee members and I are excitedly rushing to get all our ducks in a row for the best event yet. Stay tuned for more on this event as preparation takes place.

With the closing called off this Friday and all items set for G’s new job and license renewal, we would have loved to have a free weekend to simply lounge around. Timing is everything though, and this weekend is the wedding of one of my best friends. As a bridesmaid, that means G and I will be traveling a bit for the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception, but at least we’ll be having fun to help dissolve the stress of this past week!

Aside from the craziness of our own lives, our brother and sister-in-law welcomed the family’s first grandbaby into our lives on July 28th. Our beautiful nephew, Zion, is happy and healthy, and is giving G and I an excuse to leave town for a few days to visit come September. We could not be more thrilled (to both meet Zion and to have a mini vacation!)

All in all, August has been a ride of emotions. Thankfully though, once this weekend is over there are no imminent plans. I’ll have my evenings mostly free since all housing items are completed on our end, and I anticipate getting back to regularly blogging with you, friends, very soon.

Thank you for not abandoning me,